When you head in for an elective surgery such as a knee or hip replacement (two of the most common elective surgeries), you may be confused as to why your physician requires a dental clearance before operating.
First off, this is nothing to worry about and is common practice. What the medical doctor wants to ensure is your oral cavity (mouth, gums, teeth) are healthy enough to prevent bad bacteria from landing within the surgical repair location. This bad bacteria could cause infection and cause further damage even as the incision heals. To prevent this, the medical doctor will ask for a dental clearance.
What is a dental clearance?
A dental clearance might be needed before surgery to determine the health of the oral cavity—gums, teeth and mouth—to prevent infection to the surgical site. With all the bacteria teaming in your mouth, most of it is good bacteria. But some bad bacteria that form cavities and periodontal (gum) disease can enter the bloodstream to cause harm in other areas of the body. They are prone to attach to the heart. They can also find their way to open wounds, such as a surgical site.
How does a dental clearance work?
A dental clearance is performed by a dentist. When you schedule the appointment with your dentist, tell them you’re interested in receiving a dental clearance for an upcoming surgery. When you come in for the appointment, the dentist will give your mouth a thorough oral evaluation. The dentist will be looking for tooth decay and periodontal (gum) disease in particular. This includes noting any bleeding of the gums, recession, pockets, mobility and any other issues.
A saliva test may also be ordered. This includes a saline solution you swish around and spit into a test tube that is sent for evaluation by a laboratory. This may take up to 48 hours to get the results. This will determine the type of bacteria found and will ultimately help determine the overall health of your oral cavity. Your dentist will follow up with the results and provide the dental clearance in the form of a written letter with copies of the salivary analysis and the periodontal charts.
What if my results come back unacceptable?
If your results come back in good health, you can proceed to your operation. However, if the results come back negative, your physician may not want to proceed with the operation. The dentist can then provide a treatment plan that could get your mouth back into good condition for the operation.
Depending on how severe the issues are with your mouth will determine how simple or complex the treatment plan will be. Treatments that could occur to fix the issues for teeth are root canals or extractions. Gum treatments could include scaling or root planing.
Keeping your mouth healthy is essential for complete overall health
Receiving a poor dental clearance report isn’t the end of the road—it’s just the beginning to better oral and overall health. You may be someone that hasn’t visited the dentist in a while. Finding out you have poor oral health that prevents you from surgery is the first step to recovery.
The treatment plan your dentist provides will help you going forward. Fixing the problems now ensures better health in the future. Dental procedures can be costly, but dental insurance helps cover some of the cost.
With the Direct Benefits Marketplace, you can choose from a variety of plans that best suit your needs. Most dental plans cover preventive cleanings and checkups 100%, so you’ll always know where your dental health stands. There are also no waiting period plans that get you into the dentist right away. The procedures you’ll need to cover will also be listed under either basic or major services.
With dental insurance, your teeth will always be in good hands.